I wanted to share photos of our New Year's travel to the land's end - на краешек земли, as I call it.
We do a lot of road trips. Practically every weekend we go exploring our amazing state which has so much variety (4 different climate zones, to begin with). There is probably not enough time in our whole life to really get to know every bit of it, and we do have quite a few favorite places where we return regularly, but we also love discovering new-to-us corners of Washington (with occasional trips to beautiful neighboring Oregon). This time, it was a trip to a new place, and literally a corner - the most Northwestern corner of the contiguous United States.
Please note: many photos in this post.
Bonus: you don't need to fasten your seat belts or wear your hiking boots to start your trip.
To get to this land's end from our place, there are two most logical ways - via Tacoma Narrows Bridge or via ferry from Seattle. On the way there, we drove via Tacoma's famous bridge (read why it's famous in this Wiki article). It always looks impressive, but especially against blue sky. Now we are on the Kitsap peninsula, which is separated from the Olympic Peninsula (our destination) by Hood Canal. To cross the canal, we use another bridge. Now we are very close to the biggest town on the whole Olympic Peninsula - Port Angeles (population a little over 19,000). The harbor on which the city is located was named by a Spanish explorer in 1791, and the whole name sounded like this:
Puerto de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles (Port of Our Lady of the Angels).
WOW! Our ancestors appreciated fancy names like that, didn't they?
Winter and Summer 2014 - almost the same spot.
From the lookout tower, you can see the Olympic mountains, the city, the port with ferries coming and going to Vancouver Island, Canada (1.5 hour trip - and a bit of a drive to meet Shawna, which I definitely want to do one day), the Coast Guard located on Ediz Hook, a 3 mile long sand spit, and the third tallest mountain in Washington State - Mount Baker.
Mount Baker (North Cascades), elevation 10,781 ft or 3,286 m
The weather was rather brisk, and our walk was also rather brisk. I was happy to have all my layers on (I guess not all of my inner Siberian is lost yet!) - tank top, turtleneck, wool sweater and wool coat topped with a beanie and a long scarf (I think I even had tights under my jeans!). Another fun sartorial bit. I did not think much about my outfits while getting ready for our trip. I wanted to stay warm, as I knew we were about to spend a lot of time walking and hiking on our mini-break. I just threw in a few of my favorite things, and only later realized that they sort of all go together, without my trying. It was quite satisfying to realize that.
I love murals - these beautifully depict the history of the land and people.
We rented a cozy cabin on a lake in the mountains, 15 minutes from Port Angeles. It was such a serene retreat to come back to after a day of exploring.
There was just a touch of snow in the mountains, but nothing by the sea. One full day we dedicated going to the land's end. It's a two hour car ride one way. We took 101 and 112 - both are beautiful roads with gorgeous mountain scenery, the latter offers some amazing Strait of Juan de Fuca views as it goes along the shore.
Cape Flattery ahead - our ultimate destination.
There are wonderful photo opportunities, especially if you travel on a warm sunny day - mountain streams, ponds and little rivers, log cabins, wild animals and birds, trails etc. You will see a few small communities, not too many, here and there. Indians have lived on this land for millenia, and once you reach Neah Bay, there is the Makah Indian Reservation and a big museum of the Makah Tribe. It's open till 5 pm, so plan ahead - we did not have enough time to visit the exhibit, as it was getting dark early, and the road back is quite adventurous and exhausting for the driver, but we were greeted very warmly and even offered the chance to have our packed lunch in one of their classrooms as it was freezing cold and windy outside.
Finally, after a long travel and a short stop at the museum, we arrived at the head of the trail which leads to the most northwestern point. or the lend's end. The trail is not very long, somewhere between 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile long, but quite bumpy. It is not suitable for handicaps, strollers or people with weak knees or back problems. I am not in a great shape, and it was a bit challenging for me. Justin, with his weak knees, was not able to go to the very end of it, the most challenging part. (My parents though were climbing like it was not a big deal at all!) The enhanced trail is partly boardwalk, partly other types of "pavement" like stumps - you can see in the photos below. They do not recommend to step from the trail as there are wild animals like cougars living in the forest. Someone leaves walking sticks for those who need extra support at the head of the trail.
It was surprisingly warm and peaceful once we got on the trail. Such a serene place. The views, once you reach a few viewpoints, are breathtaking, and my words are too poor to describe what amazing feeling you get when you stand on the land's end. It's the end, but it's also a beginning, as every end is... It was like this thousands, millions of years before you, and will be long after you are gone. And being born and raised in the middle of one huge continent, have you ever dared to dream to reach the very end of another one? It was a magical way to celebrate the end of one year and beginning of another one, with dearest people, who came such a long way just to be with us...
The Cape Flattery lighthouse was built in 1854 on the tiny Tatoosh Island. There is no other way to get to it, but by boat, and the lighthouse is automated for easier maintenance. It's operated by the US Coast Guard.
About the name Flattery - doesn't it strike you as an odd one? Apparently,
"Cape Flattery is the oldest permanently named feature in Washington state, being described and named by James Cook on March 22, 1778. Cook wrote: "... there appeared to be a small opening which flattered us with the hopes of finding an harbour ... On this account I called the point of land to the north of it Cape Flattery."
On the way back home, we revisited Port Angeles once again, took a nice long stroll along the Waterfront trail which I also can heartily recommend as it is a very easy, flat surface (partly paved), good for both walking and biking. You can watch helicopters and boats, or a huge variety of waterfowl, whatever suits your fancy.
Drive up to the Ediz Hook the 3 mile long sand spit - it's quite interesting, I can't remember ever driving through a working factory (manufacturing paper) on both sides of the road, then enjoying beautiful sandy beach and wild marine life (we spotted sea lions there!), and on the very end of it there is the Coast Guard station, as I mentioned before. There were also a lot, and I mean a lot of cats, pretty well fed, not afraid of people, just leisurely walking on the beach. Quite a unique spot. And of course, a gorgeous view of Port Angeles nested on the peaceful bay and covered by the magnificent Olympics, such a beautiful natural setting, I could spend hours just looking at it.
We took a "short cut" on the way back ("only" 300 km vs. 375 km when we went via Tacoma) - ferry from Bainbridge to Seattle. The city greeted us with its lights and one of the new additions to the skyline, the Great Wheel opened in 2012. Then we hopped on I-5, about half an hour - and we were home. It's hard to believe that just one day earlier, we were there, on the land's end. One of the many land's ends of our beautiful world.
Photos by Justin, my father and myself.
With this post, I've added a button to the upper panel for Culture & Travel, which allows you to view all of my posts related to these subjects (exploring theater, museums, festivals, cities and villages, parks, etc.).
I'm wearing my colorful beanie and scarf by Lane Bryant, just in time for Sacramento's Share-in-Style: Scarf and Rosy's here. See you there!